In the United States, 16.5 percent of the population is at least 65 years of age. The figure is expected to balloon to 22 percent in a few short decades. As the population ages, it’s essential to pay attention to fire safety — over 1000 Americans over the age of 65 die from fires every year while more than 2000 are injured. In fact, seniors are twice as likely to die in a fire than other people.
While the elderly who live independently in their homes are more vulnerable to fires, those living in long-term care facilities are also susceptible.
- Older people usually suffer from mobility issues, making it harder for them to evacuate during a fire, especially in a multistoried home. Their lack of mobility also makes it more challenging for them to take safety precautions during a fire. For example, they may have trouble lying low to avoid smoke.
- Older adults usually suffer from sensory impairments such as weaker hearing, vision, touch, and smell, which makes it harder for them to sense danger. For example, they may not sense that there’s a fire in the hallway by touching the doorknob.
- Senior citizens who suffer from mental health issues such as depression, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease have far slower reaction times, which affects their ability to stay safe during an emergency.
- Many adults who live independently lack the financial means to buy fire-safety tools such as smoke detectors or fire blankets. While good long-term care homes usually have the right tools, poorer ones may lack the equipment or staff trained to react during an emergency.
Here are three steps that can improve fire safety for the elderly:
Make Sure Their Buildings Are Well-Equipped
Seniors who live in multistoried buildings must have stair chairs at the right places to improve their chances of safely evacuating during a fire. Evacuation chairs from companies like Evacuscape are cost-effective and have multiple features for enhanced safety.
- They’re lightweight yet strong enough to carry large adults
- They’re easily trainable
- They are collapsible and can be easily stored at exit points
- They have fail-safe braking systems designed to improve safety while moving downstairs
Evacuation chairs are a good investment for any building because they can also help the physically disabled, injured people, pregnant women, and individuals who use mobility tools during an emergency. Aside from fires, evacuation chairs can be a vital tool during power outages, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, gas leaks, viral outbreaks, etc.
In addition, make sure that a senior home has working carbon monoxide and fire detectors. People living with seniors must be trained to use fire safety tools like fire extinguishers and stair chairs.
Visit Them Regularly
Whether they live alone or with a support worker, it’s essential to visit a senior regularly to check their living conditions. Remember, fires in senior homes usually start from defective gas-powered cooking equipment, faulty wiring, overloaded sockets, etc.
Fire Safety Education
It’s important to educate everyone living in a senior home about fire safety — people should know what steps to follow and how to support the vulnerable in an emergency.
Although seniors are more vulnerable during a fire, their chances of survival can be greatly improved with the right tools, education, and support.